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What to expect in 2015

What to expect in 2015
Highlights

What to expect in 2015.India has finally declared its national Air Quality Index (AQI) and the government is expected to roll out its implementation...

AIR POLLUTION

India has finally declared its national Air Quality Index (AQI) and the government is expected to roll out its implementation in cities in 2015. The AQI will report air pollution levels in simple colour codes. They will also be accompanied by a health advisory. The index will ensure that lucid information is available to people.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is expected to declare the auto fuel policy roadmap for cleaning up of fuels for next 10 years. An expert committee has already submitted its report in May 2014. It is to be seen whether the government declares a weak roadmap which keeps us behind global fuel quality and emission norms or tightens it, keeping in mind WHO findings that several Indian cities are amongst the worst polluted in the world.

CLIMATE CHANGE

A new climate agreement is expected to be signed in Paris in 2015. Since the 2014 Lima summit delivered little, tremendous amount of work is needed to reach a new agreement. Future ADP sessions, the first of which is scheduled for February 2015, would be of pivotal importance. The Lima text says countries will have to communicate their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) by March 2015, with an upper limit of October 1.

ENERGY

Investments in wind and solar energy sectors are expected to increase in the coming year. On the policy front, the National Wind Energy Mission may be formalised. The government has also decided to formulate a renewable energy Act to streamline power generation, supply and tariff and help attract more investment. It is keen to have the structure of a comprehensive renewable energy law by February, before the Renewable Energy Global Investors Meet and Expo (RE-INVEST) organised by the government.

WILDLIFE

The latest tiger census in India, which was to be made public in December 2014, will be released soon. As per the last census in 2011, there were 1,706 tigers in the wild. The latest data shows that in the last four years, at least 274 tigers have died in the country. Tiger conservation officials hope that this would not have much impact on the overall population of tigers.

FORESTS

A new National Forest Policy is expected to come out in 2015. The BJP-led Central government hopes to fast-track industrial projects in forest areas, with little regard for forest-dwelling communities. This has led the tribal affairs ministry (MoTA) to protest against various circulars issued by the environment ministry (MoEF) to bypass the Forest Rights Act. Anticipating the same trend in the forest policy, the MoTA and civil environmentalists may pressure the MoEF to come up with a balanced policy. Forest-dwelling communities will also face the challenge of ensuring the implementation of the Forest Rights Act that recognises their traditional rights over forests.

HEALTH

The Indian government is expected to launch the National Health Assurance Mission (NAHM) in February. The scheme will cover people from both APL and BPL categories (above and below poverty line). People from the BPL category will get treatment free of cost. People from the APL category will benefit through an insurance model. Sources say the government is planning to give 50 drugs free of cost under the scheme. The Centre may set a minimum standard for establishing hospitals and running clinics with the Clinical Establishment Act. All clinical establishments will have to follow the minimum standards and display them in their premises. The Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010 provides for registration and regulation of all facilities and services rendered by clinical establishments in the country. The government, however, is yet to set the minimum standard.

URBAN MOBILITY

The draft Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2014, issued by the transport ministry for public comments, is expected to move forward in 2015. The Bill is directed at curbing road accidents which claim 376 lives in India every day. The urban development ministry's plan to decongest Delhi is expected to roll out in 2015. It identifies 9 action areas for improvement of road-based infrastructure for walking, cycling and comfortable use of public transport, as well as discouraging the use of private vehicles. The plan aims to retrofit roads of Delhi as per street design guidelines, improve metro station areas and improve bus infrastructure in two years.

HABITAT

The Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill is expected to be taken up by Prime Minister Modi's Cabinet for approval. The Bill, intended to protect home buyers from inordinate delay, shady financing schemes, poor quality construction, speculative pricing and missing services, was drafted by the former UPA government. It was cleared by the previous Cabinet but was never tabled in Parliament. The Bill has undergone a few changes since and a parliamentary panel has asked the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation to bring it to the Parliament as soon as possible.

The NDA government's ambitious Housing For All scheme is expected to roll out in 2015. Existing schemes like Indira Awas Yojana, Rajiv Awas Yojna and JNNURM will be brought under a single scheme named after Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Under this scheme, the government aims to provide houses with electricity and water connections to all in urban areas by 2022. (Down To Earth)

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